Posted on Thursday, August 27, 2009 by Peter Knego
MV AKDENIZ Decked!
Owners: Istanbul Technical University Maritime Facility
Builders: A.G. Weser, Bremen (hull #1293)
Registry: Istanbul, Turkey
Gross Tonnage: 7,864
Length: feet/144.31 meters
Beam: feet/18.6 meters
Draft: feet/6.17 meters
Passengers: 314 (1,560 as built)
Service Speed: 16 knots
Propulsion: twin screws powered by M.A.N. diesels (7,240 bhp)
Please click on image to open a larger version. All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2009 unless otherwise noted.
The current millennium has brought, with few exceptions, the utter decimation of a once diverse fleet of vintage passenger liners and cruise ships. Today, only a handful of these graceful vessels tenuously cling to existence in defiance of impending SOLAS regulations, high operational and maintenance costs and the global economic downturn. The Tuzla-based Istanbul Technical University’s Maritime Facility is home to one such liner, the 1955-built MV AKDENIZ.
The first of two nearly identical ships built for state-owned Turkish Maritime Lines, the 8,809 gross ton AKDENIZ (“Mediterranean Sea”) was completed by the Bremen-based yard of AG Weser in late 1955, officially entering service in January of 1956. She was followed by the nearly identical KARADENIZ (“Black Sea”) that same year. The two ships had an impressive capacity for 1002 passengers (8 deluxe, 74 first, 370 tourist, and 550 deck/dormitory).
Turkey’s largest and finest liners were designed for the cross-Mediterranean run from Barcelona to Marseilles, Genoa, Naples, Piraeus, Alexandria, Beirut and Istanbul but also enjoyed several seasons in Black Sea service. Their gracious silhouettes were certainly typical of the era, with long, raked bows, sheltered promenades and curvaceous superstructures topped with streamlined midships funnels.
Turkish Maritime Lines was one of several key Mediterranean operators competing with the likes of Adriatica, Tirrenia, Jadrolinija and Hellenic Mediterranean Lines. From the late 1950s through the early 1970s, its fleet thrived on a variety of Mediterranean and Black Sea routes.
By the mid-1970s, Turkish Maritime Lines and its competitors began to withdraw and scrap most of their liners, leaving just the AKDENIZ and KARADENIZ to soldier on, when they were switched to Turkish coastal cruising in the early 1980s.
Following an engine room fire, the KARADENIZ was broken up at Aliaga (near Izmir) in 1987. The AKDENIZ was converted for cruising in 1989 with the installation of full air conditioning and the addition of a disco, gym and sauna.
At the same time, her lower classes of accommodation were given private facilities and the ship’s capacity was downsized to a very comfortable double occupancy rate of 230 (maximum 444 with all extra berths filled).
For several years, AKDENIZ was chartered to Bonn-based Phoenix Seereisen, catering mainly to German passengers. By most accounts, this chapter in her long career was very successful and the ship enjoyed a loyal following, occasionally venturing outside of the Mediterranean to the U.K and Scandinavia. Her final active years were spent cruising out of Genoa and in local Turkish coastal service before the 1997 SOLAS regulations required prohibitive modifications that forced her withdrawal.
The ship was saved from almost certain demolition by the Istanbul Technical University Maritime Facility for use as a training ship, initially spending most of her time at anchor. I visited AKDENIZ shortly after her handover to ITUMF on a very hot June afternoon in 1998. The ship, still in TML’s handsome livery, was in immaculate condition and completely unchanged from her most recent cruising configuration. Her public areas were magnificently original and ready to begin serving a new incarnation as classrooms and lecture halls and her cabin accommodation would be used as occasional student housing.
Eventually, the ship was given ITUMF’s blue and gold funnel livery and a jetty was built to accommodate her, although she is less actively used today.
MV AKDENIZ Today
In the past eleven years, constant exposure to the elements have taken a slight toll on the AKDENIZ’ outer decks but she remains in overall good condition. She has become a familiar part of the local landscape, sharing the tranquil waters with an assortment of fishing boats, yachts, and, at certain times of year, schools of pulsating jellyfish or scad.
In April of 2009, through the kind offices of ITUMF’s assistant dean, Dr. Ata Bilgili, I was granted a visit to the ship. On a cool, cloudy morning, I spent some five hours on board, documenting nearly every detail from the top of the house to her machinery spaces.
Top To Bottom Tour
Top Of House
The Top of the House offers great views over her long bow and bridge wings. It steps down slightly at the base of the funnel, continuing aft alongside the engine room skylight for a view over the stern.
Bridge Deck begins with the spectacular wheelhouse and its beautifully preserved vintage navigation equipment and gauges. The brass Chadburn telegraphs still proudly sport their Turkish commands..
Outside, the open wings have endured their share of exposure to Turkey’s cool winters and blazing summers but for the most part, the ship remains in very good condition.
The Chart Room and Radio Room are, in classic tradition, just aft of the Wheelhouse.
The Captain’s Office and Bedroom remain unaltered and seemingly ready to accommodate.
The uppermost landing of the forward stairtower is just aft of the Captain’s Quarters. In its beautifully moulded ceiling is the Turkish crescent moon symbol. Continuing aft from here, there is more officer
s’ accommodation and the officers’ mess.
An open sun deck overlooking the stern is reached by narrow promenades from the bridge wings.
Promenade Deck level begins with the remarkable Bergama Lounge, AKDENIZ’ former first class social hall. The butterfly-shaped ceiling fixture and four wide, wooden supports are key focal points, along with a leather padded bar and a combination of original and more modern furnishings. The room is configured for meetings and lectures in these images with banks of seating on either side of the long tables in its center.
Immediately aft of the forward vestibule are the four palatial Lux Suites (500 and 502 on the starboard side and 501 and 503 on the port side). Each sports a separate sitting area and bedroom, a large bathroom with two sinks, and some of the most remarkable vintage paneling still afloat. Note the original bakelite dial phones. The forward units, 500 and 501 (shown above) are slightly smaller than the aft units.
Imagine what it must have been like to occupy one of these magnificent suites during the AKDENIZ’ liner service or latter cruising heyday.
Small vestibules are located on either side of the aft portion of the Bergama Lounge, leading to sheltered promenades.
Here, the ship’s original teak decking remains in very good condition.
On the sheltered terrace overlooking the stern on Promenade Deck, there is the al fresco Aspendos Bar, used in recent times as an outdoor classroom.
There is a small elevated platform between the third and fourth holds, which contain a pool and paddling pool.
On top of the former tourist class deck house on Promenade level is the Disco Demre, dating from the ship’s 1989 refit. The awning-covered space was also a popular beer garden. A fierce storm recently damaged the structure, which is now in the process of rebuilding.
The ship’s long, sheered bow holds two hatches and an array of winches and boons that would turn any maritime museum green with envy. And from here, one has the best vantage of AKDENIZ’ gently sculpted, cambered superstructure or “face”.
Narrow promenades continue aft from the fo’c’sle on either side of A Deck.
The AKDENIZ’ most beautiful salon, the still very original former first class Kekova Lounge, begins the A Deck interior line up. There is a lustrous wood, brass and leather bar aft/center and glass and wooden cabinets that once served as the ship’s Library aft/starboard. The Kekova has been used as a classroom in recent times for a lucky contingent of ITUMF cadets.
Just aft of the Kekova Lounge, the former first class lobby used to house shops and the purser’s office. The glass-enclosed kiosk now contains displays of Turkish Maritime memorabilia and artifacts from AKDENIZ early career.
The stairtower is quite remarkable with its mahogany-capped iron balustrade, brass trivets and fetching curvature.
MV AKDENIZ First Class Cabin 400, facing aft.
Stunning paneling and woodwork adorns the line up of former first class cabins that follow. AKDENIZ is a museum of magnificent hardwoods and veneers, especially in her former first class and lux quarters.
Aft A Deck has plenty of open, teak-lined space surrounding the pool area.
Narrow promenades wrap around the former Tourist Class deck house, leading to the fantail.
The former Tourist Class Foyer is in the forward portion of the aft A Deck deck house.
It’s been a long time since the former Tourist Class Halikarnas Lounge was last used, so there is a bit of dust in the vicinity. It features a handsome bar in its forward starboard quarter a dance floor and a small stage. Although a bit less spectacular than the former First Class salons, it is still quite a beautiful room with warm wood paneling, solid vintage furnishing, original light fixtures and nice bits of melamine art.
B Deck level begins with the
anchor windlass compartment, continuing aft via a sheltered space on either side, unique to hard-working passenger liners of the AKDENIZ’ era.
The relatively compact main galley follows.
The Capadoccia Restaurant was the former First Class Dining Room. The largest of three dining venues, it spans the width of the ship, combining warm wood tones with relatively modern, comfortable furnishings.
An entire level of comfortable former Tourist Class cabins continue aft from the Capadoccia Restaurant. All were given private facilities in the 1989 refit.
The aft B Deck Lobby was originally the Tourist Class entrance.
Hospital staff had accommodation in the aft portion of B Deck, adjacent to the Hospital.
The Hospital is a rather fascinating vintage study, with equipment dating from 1955.
The Gym and Sauna were added in 1989 and are located on the forward/port section of C Deck.
The Perge Restaurant is in the aft portion of C Deck, on the port side. It was originally AKDENIZ’ Tourist Class Dining Room and was refitted in a style similar to that of the Capadoccia.
More former Tourist Class cabins are located on C Deck.
A third restaurant, the Duden, is situated athwartships near the stern on C Deck. It was reportedly used as an ala carte dining room in the AKDENIZ’ German cruising years.
At the very stern is the ship’s steering gear compartment.
D Deck has yet more former tourist class cabins.
According to a recent survey, the hull is in overall good condition, retaining at least eight of its original fifteen milimeters of thickness and the main engine and auxiliaries are in fine form but not economical to operate on short routes.”
Options for the ship’s future include, in addition to her continuing career as a Turkish training ship, use as a floating hotel-restaurant-conference center-museum in the Tuzla region. There is also serious consideration for configuring her as a mother ship to be used as a hospital-accommodation vessel in disaster situations, according to ITUMF’s Doctor Bilgili.
According to Dr. Bilgili, “The initial goal is to find funding to dry dock AKDENIZ asap and do a thorough hull survey. After necessary repairs are performed and anti-fouling coating is applied, this would give us enough time to investigate other preservation opportunities. In the meantime, she can be used as a dorm, hands-on training lab for ITUMF cadets, classroom-library-conference hall and/or recreational center for ITUMF faculty and staff.”
For updates and more information on the Akdeniz, Dr. Bilgili has created MV_Akdeniz@yahoo.com
End Of MV AKDENIZ Decked! Tour
Special Thanks: Hakki Akca, Dr. Ata Bilgili, Martin Cox, Reuben Goossens, Dr. Osman Kamil-Sag